Kamala Harris as governor? There could be a run

For most of the early and early years of this century, Kamala Harris was one of the weakest voters in Democratic-dominated California, even as she held three consecutive elected offices.

Since she became President Biden's running mate as vice president, her poor turnout record has been largely glossed over.

But what happens if the Biden-Harris ticket loses this fall and Harris is out of public office for the first time in 22 years? Harris will have just turned 60 a few weeks before Election Day, an age when many politicians are just starting out, and almost exactly 30 years younger than former U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein was when she died in office.

Not exactly a retirement scenario. And yet, if she and Biden lose, Harris would have to provide a lot of evidence of her electoral appeal before she could even consider running for president again, as she briefly did in 2020.

Join California's open race for governor in 2026. What better place for Harris to prove that she has become a much more powerful politician than ever before?

The race is already pretty crowded, with people like Lt. Gov. Elena Kounalakis, former state Senate President Toni Atkins, former State Controller Betty Yee and current State Schools Supt. Tony Thurmond are now running. Other potential participants include Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta, former Atty. General and current federal Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra, and most likely Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco, currently the only significant Republican possibility.

Harris' current prominence and greater name recognition would immediately put her at the top of the field, and it could be enough to get her into the runoff in the state's top two “jungle primary” system in two years. She would also be able to call upon the services of the same campaign consultants who have helped current Gov. Gavin Newsom score victory after victory and gain national prominence along the way.

But would Harris then be ripe for a surprise? This is where her previous inconspicuous voter turnout could become relevant.

When she ran for San Francisco district attorney in 2003, she lost in the primary to unpopular incumbent Terence Hallinan but later beat him in a runoff. In 2007 she stood for re-election unopposed.

When she ran for California attorney general in the last state election before the emergence of the top two in 2010, Harris handily won the Democratic primary, but her Republican rival Steve Cooley, then Los Angeles district attorney, would have her despite the Democrats' large majority almost upset voter registration advantage. She won with just 6,000 votes out of 9.6 million cast, with the result not known until more than three weeks after the last vote.

Later easily re-elected, she set her sights on the Senate seat once held by Democrat Barbara Boxer and chose a Democrat to replace her runoff opponent. Harris handily defeated former Orange County congresswoman Loretta Sanchez, but still received only 39 percent of the primary vote before easily making it through the runoff with 61 percent.

Overall, this is a disappointing performance in this heavily Democratic state.

But Harris has recently emerged as the Biden administration's main spokesman on abortion, galvanizing the nation to remind voters – especially women – that former President Donald Trump is responsible for today's state-by-state patchwork picture on the abortion procedure responsible for. That's because he named three conservative Supreme Court justices who all voted to overturn Roe v. to pick up Wade.

Her challenge to the loss of the right to vote for women in many states may have made her more popular with female voters, but it does not appear to have improved her standing with men.

The net effect is not yet sufficient to give them a positive national rating. A recent USA Today/Suffolk poll found that more than half of voters surveyed, 54 percent, thought Harris was unfit to be president despite four years of significant national experience. Or maybe because of that.

The result is that if Biden and Harris lose this fall, Harris will have to prove herself in ways she has never done before before she could be considered as a serious future presidential candidate. Becoming governor of California would be better than anything else.

Email Thomas Elias at [email protected].

Anna Harden

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